In 1971, a group of faculty members received a Teachers of Teacher Trainers (TTT) grant. The grant was so large that there were subgroups of grant recipients created to discuss the details of usage. Drs. Jim Stines, Don Frantz, and Lorraine Force were on the humanities subgroup committee. Professors of the humanities (in Religion, English and Art respectively), they decided on developing a residential college. The three founders went on to visit different places to determine the shape that Watauga College would take. They visited UNCG's residential college, the artist community of Penland, and other residential communities in the area.
1972: Watauga College was started. It was located in Watauga Hall on campus (Fun Fact: That's why it's called "Watauga College"), and it was the first ever co-ed housing situation at Appalachian. Jim Stines (one of the founders) was the first Director of Watauga, and he held that position for one year, Academic Year 1972-1973.
Originally Watauga had at least one faculty couple living in the residence halls with the students. The first couple to do this was Mary and Joe Watts; Joe served as the Assistant Director of Watauga and Mary served as the Residence Director. They started out in Watauga Hall, and moved with the program when it relocated to East Residence Hall in 1974.
At its inception, Watauga was a strictly one-year program for Freshmen. By 1974, the student call for a second year in the program was unignorable. A sophomore program was added, making Watauga a two-year program. Two of the core values of Watauga during this time of infancy were interdisciplinarity and team teaching. Grades were managed for each student very uniquely: at the end of each semester the faculty would all sit down together and write a statement about each student as their grade.
Watauga was also housed under the General College (the predecessor to University College) in its early years until the mid-1980s when it was moved under the Interdisciplinary Studies Department.
In 1973-1974, a psychology professor, Bill Moss, was the Director.
Also in 1974, Watauga Hall was razed and Watauga College moved to East Residence Hall. East would house Watauga until 2003. After the Watts couple stepped down, William and Diane Griffin took their place in East as the Assistant Director of Watauga and the Residence Director of the dorm. Bill Griffin would later become the Director of Watauga College.
In 1974-1975, the Director was Mike Moore.
In the start of Academic Year 1975, Peter Petschauer began serving as the Director of Watauga and he stayed for five years until 1980. This five year period is often referred to as the "Petschauer Era." Peter was also the head of Interdisciplinary Studies (when it was not yet a department) during his time in Watauga.
Marvin Williamsen was the Director of Watauga College followed by Peter Petschauer. He was the Director of Watauga throughout the 1980s, after which he still worked closely with Watauga until 1990 when he was serving as the Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS).
William C. Griffin taught in Watauga from 1978-1988 and also served as director of Watauga under Marvin Williamsen as Chair of IDS.
Kay Smith came to Watauga under Marvin Williamsen, and served as the Director for three years from 1986-1989. Smith recognized the uniqueness of Watauga's program and in an interview reflecting on the program, she referred to it as a "boutique program" that was worth bragging about. She thinks though, that unfortunately, not enough bragging and advertising was done in the 80s to increase the visibility and validity of the program and she saw it suffer in enrollment, budgetary allocations, and other areas.
After Kay Smith left the director position to take the position of IDS chair, longtime faculty member Leslie "Bud" Gerber served as the Director of Watauga from 1989-1995. He was followed by Cynthia Wood who was Director from 1995-1997.
Richard Carp became the chair of IDS after Kay Smith in 1999 and he was the final chair of IDS, working there until about 2008. Around 2008-2009, IDS was dissolved as a department, and was reduced to just a program. During the same time University College was established and Watauga was then moved there for administration.
Under Richard Carp, Lee Williams served as the Director of Watauga College from 1999-2005.
In 2003, Watauga moved from East Residence Hall to the newly constructed Living Learning Center where it still resides today, alongside other student groups.
In 2005, David Huntley, who had served as the Assistant Director of Watauga in the past took the position of Director in Watauga and served until 2014. Under his direction, Watauga College was renamed Watauga Global Community in 2008.
In 2014, Clark Maddux served as the Director of Watauga. One of his first official actions as director was to change the official name back to Watauga Residential College.
Watauga has had to undergo changes to their curriculum as the university curriculum changes, much like any other department. Under Kay Smith's direction, Watauga submitted new General Education forms to AP&P, but they were unsuccessful calling Watauga College "too interdisciplinary." In 2014-2015, Clark Maddux submitted courses again to the General Education council and AP&P, this time with much greater success.
In Fall of 2021, Laura Ammon became Clark Maddux's successor. Her tenure at Watauga began with the opportunity to work with students to construct the post-Covid Watauga. The University underwent many changes in the year of Covid-19 remote teaching and learning; the return to face-to-face classes came with many challenges. In true Wataugan spirit, Prof. Ammon worked with students and the Watauga alumni GA Zoe Huffines, to renew Watauga, step by step. Classes in the LLR, Land Beyond days of service, Fall Festival, and Watauga Graduation were re-visioned with students, staff and faculty. In 2022, we returned to lunches in the Great Hall on Tuesdays and forged ahead to continue building the Watauga Community. We have a great future and we are creating it, one step at a time.